Aug 23 2004
When I was a child, I took religion (in my case, Conservative Judaism) very seriously. I suppose you could say that I believed in it. Another thing I took seriously, though it is even harder for me to imagine now, was "Big Foot"....you know, Sasquatch. I couldn't understand why anyone refused to believe in Big Foot when there was so much evidence. I mean, there were films of it and lots of people who claimed to have seen it. My first doubts came when I started noticing that each of the descriptions was different from the others. I mean, if lots of people had seen a giraffe, their descriptions of it would be pretty much the same. But, the descriptions of Big Foot varied wildly. Then, I started reading (I don't remember where) articles by a skeptic debunking some of the stories I had been taking for granted. The skeptic's objections made sense to me. They proved to me that at least some of the people who claimed to have seen/filmed Big Foot were actually lying intentionally...they were pulling a hoax. I was upset that someone would take advantage of me like that and decided to start being more skeptical myself. Then, it wasn't long before I realized that the best explanation for all of the different Big Foot descriptions and the total lack of convincing proof of its existence is that they were all hoaxes or people who were mistaken.
This same idea applies well to religion. I grew up in New York City...Queens to be specific. So, I knew people of many different religions. It didn't take me long (I guess I was about 14) to start applying this same philosophy to religion. There are all of these different descriptions of "God" or gods. If there is some supernatural being out there, even if one of the religions is "really true", being at all rational about it leads you to the conclusion that most people in the world have to be completely wrong about what this god is like and what it wants. Then, in the end, it becomes a sort of "symmetry" argument as we mathematicians would say. If almost all of them are not true, but one of them is, you would think it would be noticeable. However, they all look very much the same. All think they are right and the others are wrong. All have books that they claim make a lot of sense but seem pretty darn weird to me. All if true would lead to some noticeable effects in the world that I do not perceive. The most sensible explanation, it seems to me, is that none of them really has a handle on "truth". The stories are just that, stories.
I suppose some people who are religious do so without caring whether it is true or not. For myself, however, my ability to take religion seriously disappeared as soon as I came to this conclusion. If any of the famous religious myths are true, they are of obvious importance. But with their truth gone, one has to look at them to determine what value they might have. Other people whose opinions I respect claim to have found some value, but I personally see none.